The Weight

There is a weight that bows and breaks my back,
A mass too bulky for these arms to raise,
And there atop my weary frame it stays,
A dreadful bulk of binding brown and black.
Oh, would to God that one might grant me slack
From my poor plight and come in pow’r to raze
My load and trade it with a joy that weighs
A trifle yet fulfills my deepest lack.
Yet herein lie the subtleties of pain—
That that which burdens so and works my harm
Is also that which I would soon retain—
As if to cast off bondage were insane!
I hesitate beneath my captive’s charm
And count the cost of fleeing his domain.

© 2012 Eric Evans


English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...
Abraham Lincoln, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In honor of the recent release of the movie Lincoln, I’ve compiled a couple of articles by my pastor that have to do with the president and a brief description of each.

Pastor John Piper’s article “Abraham Lincoln’s Path to Divine Providence” recounts how “personal and national suffering drew Lincoln into the reality of God, rather than pushing him away.”  May we have the same reaction.  May suffering cause us to run to Jesus rather than from him.

In “Admiring and Disillusioned, I Turn from Lincoln to Jesus,” Pastor John examines in depths some of Lincoln’s views toward blacks–at least the views he held during one specific debate for a  Senate seat in 1858, which is not to say his views never changed.  Upon closer examination, Pastor John concludes by acknowledging any and all man’s fallibilities and by calling us to cling ever more tightly to Jesus, the one hero who will never disappoint.  (Click here to read a poem I wrote with that exact theme entitled “One Hero“.)

A third article John Piper has written about Abraham Lincoln is called “The Slow Fires of Misery.”  In it Pastor John gives us insight into Lincoln’s marriage to Mary Todd.  Although a very difficult marriage, Lincoln was faithful to his marriage vows–a fact that may have helped prepare him for perseverance amid the fires of the Civil War.

The last article I’ll feature here is called “Lincoln’s Logic on Slavery Applied to Abortion,” in which Pastor John compares the rights of unborn children in our day to the rights of enslaved blacks in Lincoln’s day.  Just like a man is a man of equal worth no matter the subtle gradient of his skin’s pigmentation, so too are children as much human at 41 weeks as they are at 39 weeks.

Enjoy these articles as you remember one of America’s truly great men.  Let us hold fast to the good we see portrayed in this man, let us flee from any evil, and let us cling ever more tightly to Jesus, our hero without equal.

Newfound Song’s One-Year Anniversary

My blog turns one
In November of 2011 I began this blog, mostly as an outlet for all the thoughts and poems I had bouncing around my heart and head.  My desire for this site, as stated in the “About this Blog” page, remains the same: “May my words here be songs to your ears.  May the result be a sense of wonder at the greatness of God in saving sinners and a sense of hope that he’s worth trusting in yourself.”  My hope is that these words–these new songs of a man given to him by the God who pulled him up out of the pit and set his feet on solid rock–might affect your heart in such a way that you see him as good and begin to love him and trust him and fear him yourself.

Looking back over this past year
The first poem published on this blog was “Unrestrained.”  My first devotional, besides the welcome, was called “Why I’m a Christian.”

Some of my favorite posts over the past year include:

Feel free to share what you find here with others.  Grace and peace to you as you read.

Click here to read more about the author.

Shots Fired

They’re some of the last words you ever want to hear uttered at a department store on Black Friday. They’re the kind of words that turn a loud, light-hearted rush for doorbusters into an eerily quiet, suddenly serious rush for the nearest exit.

My mom, wife, and mother-in-law arrived at the Younkers at Westroads Mall in Omaha, NE, at about 11:15 PM Thanksgiving Day for their midnight opening. Already a line had formed, which only lengthened considerably the longer we waited, but we were glad we were near the front. After a last minute phone call to my brother about a deal we thought we could look into for my mom and dad, the buzz reached its height as the doors were finally opened and we all, like hungry bees in search of flowers, rushed inside the store and made our way to our desired purchases of choice.

We had entered on the lower floor of the store, so we had to book it up the escalator to the luggage section. Samsonite luggage was, in some cases, marked down 65%. You could have cut the feverish pitch that hung in the air with a knife. After bitterly having to decide against the Samsonite purchase (we’d been told that luggage that have those four swivel wheels are very easily broken), we decided to split up. My wife and mother-in-law needed to check out the specials offered in the restroom, and my mom and I were going to make our way to the men’s section. Maneuvering our way through the check-out lines that had already begun to snake their way throughout the entire store, my mom and I finally arrived. After a quick walk through casual wear, we made our way over to their dress pants section. Kenneth Cole Reaction pants, regularly $65, were marked down to $29.95. Cha-ching! I quickly perused the racks and picked out several pairs that I thought might do the job.

It was then that some rapid movement from a group of people just beyond men’s formal wear caught my eye. They were really moving. I wondered if some new doorbuster sale had just opened up, and these determined shoppers were going to be first in line. I paused briefly to watch what I thought was holiday zeal reaching its peak before my very eyes. But then came those words. Two words that will take you from 60 to zero in about .02 seconds. “Shots fired!”

Like a herd of spooked antelope, people began running for their lives. Suddenly saving an additional 60% off already marked-down items took a plunge on our collective priority list. I looked over at my mom who was a few racks away, and without a word, we both instantly agreed that our shopping experience was over. We made our way to the back of men’s formal wear and crouched down behind a deeply discounted row of designer dress pants. We found ourselves beside a woman and her teenage daughter, her other daughter rushing over to meet them shortly thereafter. The girl’s mom, trying to stay calm herself, desperately tried to reassure her that everything would be OK, but tears and trembling quickly overtook her.

I whipped out my cell phone and dialed Laura. Praise God she answered right away. She and Mayte had been downstairs and, though nearly being trampled by the stampede towards the exit, had made it outside. I was greatly relieved. They were safe. I told her to stay outside and that we would call them later. I stuffed the phone back into my pocket and looked over at the family next to me. My mom had knelt down behind the woman and her distraught daughter and had put her arms around them both. My biggest fear was that we were going to start hearing things. Yelling. Screaming. Shooting. I was not sure I would be able to keep it together at that point. It’s in moments like these that you most desperately want to grab the remote control of life and put everything on pause, even for just a few minutes, in order to get a grasp on what in the world is going on. Unfortunately, you’re left acting on instinct.

I asked my mom and the family she was comforting if there was an exit close by. They didn’t think so. I looked down a few aisles toward the dressing rooms and saw that several people were standing and looking in the direction of where the frenzy had begun. The store was quiet. The music over the loud speaker had been cut. I figured since so many people were upright and looking around, it must be—at least in the immediate sense—safe to move. I told my mom and the family near us that I thought we’d be OK trying to move toward an exit. They agreed, and we separated. Leaving our cart and my carefully selected dress pants, my mom and I slinked over to the next section of clothing. My hopes were quickly dashed when someone sitting partially underneath a clothes rack informed us that the entire store was under lockdown. The doors were locked. No one was being allowed in or out. Well, so much for that idea.

Already rumors had begun to fly. Was it really a shooting? Wasn’t it just a fight? Had anyone actually heard gunshots? It was about then that a woman’s voice came over the speaker and very simply informed us that all was clear. She apologized for the scare and said she hoped that people would be able to continue shopping. Trying desperately to piece together what had happened from the comments whizzing around me and now this surprise announcement that everything was in fact OK, I figured that a simple fight had at some point gotten transformed in the minds of sleep-deprived shoppers into an all-out shooting which sparking a mass exodus from Younkers.

Well, now what do we do? Do we trust the announcement, or do we trust the general sense of fear that still hung thick throughout the store? Do we collect our items from where we left them and pay? Should we continue shopping? Maybe we should just forget the whole thing and go home. Somehow doorbusters had very suddenly lost the appeal that they had had over me just 15 minutes prior. My mom and I decided to get our cart, leave the pants—which I was in no state to even think about trying on—pay for the few things we had managed to snag, and get ourselves out of there.

What’s astonishing about an alleged random shooting at Younkers is not the fact that it could happen there and then to me on Black Friday. The astonishing thing is that it doesn’t happen more. What’s really amazing is that it hasn’t already happened to me. Every moment that passes in our lives in which some terrible atrocity doesn’t occur is an incredible gift of God’s unmerited grace. With all the pain and all the scars and all the messed up thinking that exists in this world—and let’s be honest—that exists in me—the fact that I don’t live a life of constant terror is absolutely jaw-dropping. In the world in which we live today, we should rightfully expect tragedy to be the norm, not the exception. And yet, for most, due to God’s benevolent providence, that is not so.

If you have ever lived through a boring, absolutely forgettable day, thank God for his kindness to you in sparing you from numberless horrors that could and should come your way. In a world that has rejected God and stiff-armed his Son, do not be shocked by terror. Be shocked by peace. Be amazed that God would be merciful at all on any scale to rebels like you and me. Stand dumbstruck that he would grant you and me any good thing whatsoever. Then cling to this good God with all your might in hope that he will carry you through each and every atrocity that does come your way.

Click here to read a local news report regarding the incident: “Disturbance leads to scare at Westroads Mall.

That You Would See

When your young eyes have seen the seasons change
As many times as mine have, when your ears
Have been fine tuned to this world’s harsh discord
And your mind, then mature, perceives the dark
That holds reality in its sure grip—
Right then, at your rope’s end, when Jesus stoops
Down low to stand beside you, will his face
Glow with familiar light because it’s light
You’ve seen before, imperfect though it was?
Will his soft words sound strangely known, as if
His whisper weren’t the first time you had heard
Him speak? And when he there amid the night
Calls you by name, will his voice seem distinct,
Familiar, sweet, because you’ve heard him call
Your name before, your name upon my lips?
When he, in grace, rests his strong hands across
Your shivering back, will you accept their warmth
Because you’ve felt such love before when you
Reached up to take my hand, assured that such
A risk like reaching out was not in vain?
Will you know what it’s like to sleep secure
Beneath the strong right hand of one who loves
You dearly, causing you to rest assured
In him as you once did in weaker strength?
And as you walk your road alone will his
Near presence fill your soul with trembling joy
Because you’d tasted what it’s like to stand
In awe-filled love as you stood near to me?
Or will he seem to you a stranger, child,
One harsh and cold and spiteful, devious, ruled
By wrathful whims instead of self-control
Because that’s what you’d learned of him from me?
Will you have learned to long for him or loathe
His very being because of how I lived?
Will you have learned that he is joy and rest
And thus will you draw near to him because
You found in me, so many years before,
A faint reflection of the love of God
And such a taste gave you a longing just
To drink from my joy’s source and know him, too?
Repaint this sign, dear God, that I might point
With clarity the way to Jesus’ feet.
Look through the cracks in this clay pot, dear child;
May Jesus be the light that shines from me.

© 2012 Eric Evans

Good People and One Really Good Person

In one of his songs, singer Jack Johnson asks the question, “Where’d all the good people go?” (Here’s a link to the song on Youtube.) I admit it seems I ask myself that exact same question more and more as the years go by. “Good people”—however you chose to define the term—are seemingly harder and harder to come by. An article in Time Magazine a few months back, however, caught my attention and just may have answered my question.

On July 20, 2012, a man entered a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and opened fire. There were a total of 12 fatalities in the shooting, and Time printed a sentence summary of each along with their photos in an article from their August 6 edition. Three of those sentence summaries left me absolutely dumbfounded:

“Alex Teves: Teves, 24, successfully protected his girlfriend, covering her during the barrage.”

“Jon Blunk: Blunk, a 26-year-old veteran, saved his girlfriend by shielding her before he was shot.”

“Matt McQuinn: McQuinn, 27, was killed while protecting his girlfriend, who was shot in the knee but survived.”

Three of the 12 total victims, an amazing 25%, were killed protecting someone else. A straight up exchange took place: their lives for the lives of others. As a direct result of their deaths, three other people were allowed to live. It takes your breath away. I think I’ve found some of those “good” people you’ve been looking for, Jack. I pray to God I would be like those men if I ever found myself in a similar situation.

What kind of amazing love sacrifices one’s very life for the life of another? Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). There is no higher expression of love than this.

Jesus died for you. Just like these three young men who gave their lives for someone they loved, Jesus gave his life in exchange for yours. Don’t pass over that fact too quickly. Pause for a moment and let it sink in. Another man—the perfect, glorious, righteous God-man Jesus Christ—took your fall. Your number had come up, and Jesus stepped forward to take your place. The hammer of perfect justice was about to fall on you, and Jesus took the blow. Death rightly had you in its sight, and Jesus took a bullet for you. And he did it willingly. Never doubt the amazing love that God the Son has toward you.

All who see Jesus and his crazy love and are drawn by it will be saved. The question is, Do you see it? Does the fact that Jesus loves you land on you in such a way that you can’t help but love him in return? I pray that it would be so. There is more to be had in knowing Jesus than in all the rest of the world combined. I wish you could taste and know that that’s true. All the while, there he stands, offering this incredible love to you if you would but reach out and have it. Come to him. If he died for you, it would be inconceivable to think he wouldn’t accept you if you would but call on his name. Try it. You won’t be found wanting.